What We’re Reading: US Authorizes Pfizer Oral COVID-19 Drug; Omicron May Be Milder; More Cities Require Vaccinations

The United States has authorized Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 treatment for at-home use; study results show that the Omicron variant may have a lower risk of hospitalization; and Chicago and Boston announce proof of vaccination requirements for indoor settings.

US Authorizes Pfizer’s Oral COVID-19 Treatment

The United States authorized Pfizer’s antiviral COVID-19 pill (Paxlovid) for people aged 12 years or older who are at risk of severe illness, according to Reuters. The drug marks the nation’s first oral and at-home treatment to gain authorization. Studies testing the use of Paxlovid showed that it was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk of severe illness. The US government said that it will have 265,000 treatment courses available by January and supply will ramp up in subsequent months, expecting to have 10 million courses within 6 months.

Omicron May Carry Lower Hospitalization Risk

According to the Associated Press, 2 studies from the United Kingdom have provided early results showing that the Omicron variant may be milder than the Delta variant. However, the scientists stressed that even if their findings of these early studies hold up, any reductions in severity have to be weighed against the fact that the new variant spreads much faster than the Delta variant and may be more able to evade vaccines, saying that a significant number of Omicron infections could still overwhelm hospitals. The Manuel Ascano Jr., a Vanderbilt University biochemist said that cautious optimism is the best way to interpret the results.

Chicago, Boston to Require Proof of Vaccination for Indoor Spaces

Starting in January, Boston and Chicago will install mandates that will require people to produce proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to enter indoor spaces, including gyms, restaurants, and entertainment venues. According to a report by NPR, the new requirements represent the cities’ latest attempts at tightening publish health rules to combat the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Boston and Chicago follow in New York’s and in Los Angeles’ footsteps, which started enforcing its proof of vaccination mandate in August and November, respectively. The new orders will remain in effect until city officials have determined the threat of COVID-19 to public health has diminished significantly.